Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos: Helping Children and Families through Puppetry
By Karen Viani
“Peace is not only in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace is in the midst of things as they are, when there is calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.” ~ From the story “Portrait of Peace”
The room was bright, with lots of windows and florescent lighting that flickered and buzzed. It was a large room, set up for adult learning. The bright white walls were covered with pictures and stories, some tragic, of the many women who had passed through this room on their way from hopelessness and homelessness to opportunity and a better life. Many of these women have small children, their lives filled with chaos and uncertainty. It is my privilege to lead these women through a parenting series which, of course, includes storytelling and puppetry.
It was the last class of the parenting session and nine women were present. I cooked a hot lunch for them and served brownies and strawberries for dessert. We wrote thank-you cards and talked about gratitude and wishes for their children. In the final few minutes of class, they went and got their children from the onsite childcare center and brought them back to the classroom for our final gathering.
The women and their children, ages 5 months to 19 months, entered the brightly lit room. The women were chatting excitedly and the children were running, jumping and screaming. I sat quietly on a chair in a corner with my story apron and softly colored silk gauze draped over my shoulders. Next to me sat a small basket of simple needle-felted wool puppets. The mothers began to gather around, but the children wiggled, giggled and squirmed. I quietly removed a wool star from my story pocket and began to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
The children found their mothers’ laps and became very quiet. Over the next ten minutes, a few puppet friends came to visit and performed on my lap. The children were quiet and attentive and their mothers were relaxed, as a simple flower appeared. Then a bee, ladybug, butterfly and sun came to visit the flower. At last, the flower fell asleep at night under a starry silk.
The children and their mothers were able to find a moment of peace through a simple puppet show. They were able to find “peace in the midst of things as they are.” For just a few minutes, they could forget the troubles and chaos that press upon them every moment of every day. The puppet show filled the room with love and warmth, transforming the space into a heart space. In that short time, through the magic of puppetry, they were able to find the “peace in their hearts.” Puppetry and storytelling are healing for the heart and soul and a wonderful gift for children, adults and community.
KAREN VIANI is a storyteller and puppeteer in California. She has been teaching early childhood classes at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks for the past 12 years and parenting classes at Women’s Empowerment for the past 8 years. Karen teaches puppetry in the LifeWays training and is available for workshops and mentoring; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org